Continuing from yesterday's post, the Wheel of the Year is split into two halves, the light half and the dark half, and there are several ways to do this. For some the dark half begins at Samhain, and the light at Beltane, running off the tradional Celtic view of summer ending with Samhain (which means something like "summer's end") and winter ending with Beltane. Others view the light half as starting with Yule - when the sun begins to wax, and the dark half as starting with Litha, when it begins to wane. I have even seen those who start the light with Imbolc and the dark with Lammas.
Personally though? I follow the teaching of splitting the year at the equinoxes. The Light half begins with Ostara, and the dark with Mabon. Thus the light half of the year is the part of the year where there is more day than night, and the dark half refers to the half of the year when the nights are longer than the day.
I also associate each holiday with a time of the day. For me Ostara is the sunrise of the year, it begins the day, brings the light. Mabon is the sunset, it ends the day, brings the night, brings the darkness. Today though, I'll just be talking about the "day" of the year, the light half.
Ostara is the spring equinox (around March 21st), the first day of spring. Here in New Hampshire, that can be hard to tell though... (In fact, this year we had a snow storm the day after Ostara!) Still, the first signs are there to those who look. Like watching the sun slowly peak up over the horizon. We can still feel night, still see it if we look to the west, but we know the light is now here. It is a time to welcome the light, and bid farewell to the dark.
It is a day of near perfect balance, day and night are equal length - and from here on the days will begin to be (or will soon be) longer than the nights. It is a day of new beginnings, new life. A time to make plans and goals, to pick the seeds we will cultivate, and to prepare for the planting.
After Ostara comes Beltane (May 1st), the peak of the spring season. While we were seeing the first rays of dawn at Ostara, the morning is now in full swing. It may also help to think of the seasons as a moon phase - Ostara would be the new moon, and Beltane the full - coming back to the next new moon at Litha. Belatine is all about fertility and the new life that is now clearly all around us. The time to plant, to tend the new sprouts. Not just physical fertility and planing, but a time to inspire and nurture all creative acts and new goals/projects.
Many know Samhain as a time when the boundary between the worlds is at it's thinnest point, but its partner Beltane is another such time. At Samhain we honor the dead, but at Beltane it is a time to honor the spirits of Nature that are all around us.
Litha, the Summer Solstice (around June 21st). High noon of the year, this is when the sun is at it's peak and we are in the middle of the light half of the year. It is the longest day of the year, although from here out the days begin to shorten bit by bit. A time to celebrate the light, but also to acknowledge the bit of darkness that is always present, the darkness that will always return.
Still, nature is in full bloom, gardens have been planted and are growing, it's a time of abundance and celebrating the light and the growth all around us. We feast and play games, but it is still a time of work, of tending to the seeds we planted in spring, making sure they come to fruit.
Lammas, August 2nd. It's late in the afternoon now. The sun is still shining away, but it is noticeably closer to the horizon now. We begin the scurry of finishing the day's work before the night arrives. Although this is the peak of the summer season, it is also the first of the three harvest festivals.
A time to celebrate the mysteries of the sacred meal. The mysteries of the grain which was a small seed saved from the previous cycle, connected to all cycles before it. A seed planted deep within the earth, which has grown up into the sky with water and the light/fire of the sun. The crop that carries the very spirit of the land it has grown on. The seed which knowing the mysteries of the elements, becomes the crop, that has now been harvested and made into food which sustains us. Likewise, the wine, which we sip and feel our inhibitions leaving us (letting our subconscious minds come forth a bit more), is also imbued with the elements and the essence of the land.
The light half of the year closes with Mabon, and the dark half begins... but, that's another post, for another day.